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Miami, FL vs. Florida



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College Football Saturday Betting Preview
Miami, FL vs. Florida (ESPN, 7:00 p.m. ET)

The 2019 college football season will get started Saturday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, where Florida and Miami will collide in a battle of old-school rivals. As of Aug. 13, most books had the Gators installed as seven-point favorites.

On Aug. 18, Vegas books made Florida a 7.5-point ‘chalk.’ As of Wednesday, just about every betting outlet had the Gators favored by 7.5 points, and that’s where the number remained as of early Thursday.

Most spots have the Hurricanes at +240 on the money line (risk $100 to win $240). DraftKings Sportsbook is offering adjusted lines for those extremely bullish on Florida. Gamblers can back the Gators at -12 for a +155 return, -13.5 (+180), -14 (+210) and -14.5 (+220).

The ‘over/under’ spent about a month at 50.5 points at most shops. However, after first-year Miami head coach Manny Diaz named redshirt freshman QB Jarren Williams as his starter on Aug. 12, the total moved from 50.5 to 48.5. It dropped to 47.5 the next day. For most of this week, the total has been 47 or 47.5 points at most books.

UF went 10-3 straight up and 9-4 against the spread in the first season of Dan Mullen’s tenure. The Gators return five starters on offense and eight on defense. They finished 2018 on a four-game winning streak, including blowout wins at Florida State (41-14) and vs. Michigan (41-15) at the Peach Bowl.

Junior quarterback Feleipe Franks was the catalyst in the final four games, throwing eight touchdown passes without an interception and rushing for four more scores. The Wakulla County High School (Fla.) product came a long way under Mullen, although he had terrible performances in all three defeats against Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri.

Franks has an arm and overall size that NFL scouts salivate over, and he’s proven himself to be a willing and physical runner between the tackles. It’s all about his decision-making, an area in which he made progress with last season but still needs improvement.

Franks has talent galore around him, including the best set of wide receivers UF has had in at least a decade. The running back position is stacked as well with Lamical Perine, Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce. The position group of the most concern – not just on offensively, but on the entire team – is the offensive line.

Only one starter, senior center Nick Buchannan, returns from last season. With that said, junior OG Brett Heggie started eight games in 2017 and many observers felt he was playing like the best o-linemen on the team when he tore his ACL at Missouri. Heggie returned and played eight games last year, but he wasn’t in top form health-wise like he is now.

UF’s defense gave up 20.0 points per game in 2018. We noted eight starters returning, but it’s really like 10 when you take sophomore CB Marco Wilson and senior DE Jonathan Greenard. Wilson started all 11 games as a true freshman in 2017, only to tear his ACL in the first quarter of a Week 2 loss to Kentucky last season. Greenard has 10 career starts and 9.5 sacks from his time at Louisville in 2016 and ’17. He’s played under DC Todd Grantham at U of L, so he’s already familiar with the scheme.

The stars of the UF defense are senior LB David Reese, junior CB C.J. Henderson and senior DE Jabari Zuniga. Reese, who has 25 career starts to his credit, had 77 tackles last year and was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2017. Henderson is a preseason All-American (either first or second-team at every publication I’ve seen), a second-team All-SEC choice from last year and a projected first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Zuniga produced 45 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and four QB hurries in ’18. He has 15.5 career sacks and 21 career QB hurries.

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Miami finished ’18 at 7-6 SU and 5-8 ATS, losing five of its last seven games to prompt Mark Richt to retire after going 26-13 in three years at his alma mater. Diaz takes his place after a career spent as a DC at schools like Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Texas, Louisiana Tech and UM.

The Hurricanes return 12 starters, six on each side of the ball. UM’s defense gave up merely 19.5 PPG last year, and this group features a pair of preseason All-Americans in LBs Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. Quarterman was a preseason second-team All-American in Phil Steele’s preseason mag, while Pinckney was a fourth-teamer.

Quarterman earned first-team All-ACC honors last year when he recorded 82 tackles, eight TFL’s, six sacks, six QB hurries, two passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble. He has 25 career TFL’s and 11.5 sacks. Pinckney was a third-team All-ACC choice in ’18, producing 74 tackles, 7.5 TFL’s, 3.5 sacks, five QB hurries, two PBU and one interception.

Most betting shops with odds to win the ACC and its two divisions have Miami as the ‘chalk’ (+165-ish) to take the Coastal. Clemson is an enormous favorite to win the ACC (around -330), with most shops using the Hurricanes for the second-shortest odds at about 13/1.

Miami lost its leading rusher (Travis Homer, 985 yards), but DeeJay Dallas is back for his junior campaign. Dallas rushed for 617 yards and six TDs while averaging 5.7 yards per carry in ’18. Sophomore RB Lorenzo Lingard is ‘out’ vs. UF due to a knee injury. Lingard, a former five-star recruit, played in only six games as a true freshman last year, rushing for 138 yards and two TDs on 17 attempts (8.0 YPC).

The ‘Canes have an elite tight end and their best wideout back in the mix, and they scored an outstanding grad transfer from Buffalo. K.J. Osborn started 14 games for the 10-4 Bulls last season, producing 53 catches for 892 yards and seven TDs. Osborn joins WR Jeff Thomas, who had 35 receptions for 563 yards and three TDs in ’18. TE Brevin Jordan lived up to his 5-star status as a true freshman last year, garnering second-team All-ACC honors when he made 32 catches for 287 yards and four TDs.

Miami owns a 7-1 record both SU and ATS in the last eight head-to-head meetings between these in-state rivals since 1986. The ‘under’ is 5-2 in the past seven UF-UM encounters.

These schools last met on Sept. 7 of 2013. Miami won a 21-16 decision as a three-point home underdog.

Florida dominated the game between the 20s, but advantages of 22-10 in first downs and 413-212 in total offense were washed away by five turnovers (four in the red zone) and a failed fourth-down attempt deep in UM territory. This game started the demise of Jeff Driskel as a Gator and Will Muschamp’s tenure.

According to weather.com, the forecast for Saturday night in Orlando calls for partly cloudy skies and only a 20-percent chance of precipitation. There’s a 40 percent chance of rain earlier in the afternoon. Temperatures will mostly be in the 80s, with an afternoon high of 90 degrees and a low of 76 degrees Saturday night.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Most books have UF and UM’s season win total at 8.5. The price for the ‘over’ on the Gators is in the -135 neighborhood, while the Hurricanes are priced at around -150 for ‘over’ supporters.

-- I was in the stadiums – including the Orange Bowl in 1987, the Superdome in 2001, The Swamp in 2002 and the Georgia Dome in 2004 – for four of UF’s seven recent defeats against the ‘Canes. My only trip to the OB was for Emmitt Smith’s first game as a Gator. UM won 31-4 thanks to bad snaps for safeties by its long snapper on punts. On Jan. 2 of 2001, Miami captured a 37-20 win at the Sugar Bowl in Butch Davis’s last game before taking the Cleveland Browns job. On Sept. 7 of 2002, Ken Dorsey pieced up UF’s defense in a 41-16 win that was a misleading final with the ‘Canes getting a pick-six (and 14-point swing) that went for 100-plus yards.

On Sept. 6 of ’03, my 29th birthday was ruined by former Gator QB Brock Berlin, who rallied UM from a 33-14 third-quarter deficit to win by a 38-33 count. With Charlie Strong serving as interim head coach after Ron Zook had been fired (why the hell Jeremy Foley ever hired him will puzzle all until the end of time!), Miami beat UF 27-10 at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Then on my 34th birthday (9/6/08) while I was on press row at UFC 88 (my first UFC event, the night Rashad Evans knocked out Chuck Liddell and I thought ‘The Iceman’ was dead for at least 90 seconds), Urban Meyer elected to kick a field goal in the final 30 seconds that gave the Gators a 26-3 win and the spread cover as 22.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Randy Shannon was livid at Meyer for doing so. Really, Randy? In UF's only win over Miami since the '80s, it was being a spoiled sport for getting a 3-pointer to cover the number? Please. Shannon actually became a UF assistant under Jim McElwain and served as interim head coach after McElwain was pink slipped in 2017.

Speaking of late FGs in a game at The Swamp, I was in attendance and furious as a kid in the 1983 season opener when Howard Schnellenberger sent his kicker out on the last play of the game. The Gators were ahead 28-0 looking to polish off some cream-cheese treatment to the 'Canes, but Schnellenberger wasn't in the mood for a bagel on that day. The UM kicker made a long FG to make it a 28-3 final. That 'Canes squad won out and edged Nebraska at the Orange Bowl to win the national title.

-- Hawaii will host Arizona at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network. As of Aug. 22, most books had Kevin Sumlin’s Wildcats installed as 11-point road favorites. The total was 70.5 points for several weeks before moving to 74 overnight earlier this week. Bettors can take the Rainbow Warriors to win outright for a +325 return. They finished last year with an 8-6 SU record and a 5-9 ATS mark. UH brings back 18 total starters with nine apiece returning on each side of the ball. Cole McDonald threw for 3,875 yards with a 36/10 TD-INT ratio in 2018. He lost top WR target John Ursua, but WRs Cedric Byrd (79 catches, 970 receiving yards and nine TD grabs) and JoJo Ward (51-865-9) are back. Also, UH adds former 4-star recruit Melquise Stovall, who went JUCO after starting seven games and producing 415 receiving yards for the Cal Bears in 2016.

Arizona was a disappointing 5-7 SU and 7-5 ATS in Sumlin’s first year on the job. The Wildcats have seven starters coming back on offense and eight on defense. Senior QB Khalil Tate threw for 2,530 yards with a 26/8 TD-INT ratio last season, but he lost his top four WRs. RB J.J. Taylor returns after rushing for 1,434 yards and six TDs with a 5.6 YPC average. Junior LB Colin Schooler is an All-American candidate after recording 119 tackles, 18 TFL’s, five QB hurries, four PBU, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions.

-- Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason told the media that he won’t announce a starting quarterback for his team’s Week 1 home game against Georgia until the signal caller goes on the field and into the huddle for the first possession. With Kyle Shurmur gone, Deuce Wallace and Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal are battling for the job. Neal started 32 games for the Cardinals, throwing for 7,393 yards with a 46/25 TD-INT ratio. Neal has 1,363 career rushing yards and 15 TDs. UGA is a 21-point road favorite.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
 
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